Anthony  D  Buckley

The Calvinist Opposition to the 1859 Revival

Lecture delivered to QUB anthropology students

by Anthony D Buckley


I want to talk today about the great religious revival which hit Ulster Protestantism, and especially Ulster Presbyterianism in 1859. More especially, I want to talk about the opposition to the Revival.  Historians have been inclined to dismiss the opposition to the revival as being of no account. Most writers have seen the Revival as a major incident in the ongoing pageant of the Calvinistic, conservative-evangelical tradition in Presbyterianism.  One major writer, Peter Brooke, sees it with greater sophistication as the outstanding event which constituted this tradition which is so much in evidence to this day. Even Brooke, however, virtually ignores the opposition which the Revival generated.

I want to show that the opposition to the revival came mainly from the self-consciously Calvinist wing of the Presbyterian church.  More than this, I want to examine the place of Calvinism in Irish Presbyterianism.

I should say, however, that I produced this paper under duress. I told Harvey Whitehouse that I knew nothing at all about the development of religion and I was telling the truth.  It was only when he insisted that I gave in.  So if anybody wants to shoot me down in flames at the end, you will be attacking a very soft target.

I have this idea that an emphasis on Calvinism, in the Presbyterian Church, seems to bob up from time to time, only to submerge again.  The Ulster Presbyterian bricoleur has Calvinist ideas as part of his cultural bric a brac.  He can use his Calvinist paradigm when it is appropriate.  When he doesn't need it, he lets it stay in his tool kit.

Apart from its having specifically religious significance, Presbyterians seem to have used their Calvinism as a way of establishing a social distance between themselves and other churches.  It has especially been a means of asserting the independence of Presbyterian tenant farmers against their Church of Ireland landlords.  Calvinism was a vigorous method of building and maintaining boundaries.

Peter Brooke has argued that the Fifty Nine Revival was the moment when a united Protestant identity was formed, transcending the different churches and culminating in the establishment of the Unionist Party in the 1880s.

I don't disagree with this.  But I want also to say that some of the most strident opposition to the Fifty Nine Revival comes from the Calvinism inspired who were keen to maintain a social distance from Episcopalians, Methodists and others.  Contrary to what Peter has written, I want to claim that this Calvinist boundary maintenance continued until the First World War and even beyond.

A starting point, then, is the Church of Ireland.  Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though in a progressively dilute form, the Church of Ireland was the embodiment of a political idea known as High Church Toryism.

High Church Toryism is most easily discovered in the typical village of eighteenth century England.  There, the squire was not only landlord but also magistrate, and he exercised a close control over the tenants and labourers who worked on his estate.

In most English villages, the tenants had to attend the Church of England church.  The priest was appointed by the squire.  He inquired into the villagers' private lives and enforced moral standards. He was also the main source of information on national and international affairs.

The English village was, in short, sewn up.  Some squires were like Squire Alworthy in Tom Jones:-benevolent, kind and wise.  Others were less so.  Kind or not, the English village community was an absolutist, totalitarian organization in which the squire and his appointees had absolute sway.

High Church theology was Arminian.  Everybody could be saved.  The task of the church was to get sinners to turn to God.  The priest's job was to give instruction and firm leadership.  It was also from the Tory High Church that Methodism and Evangelicalism arose.  Wesley and the Evangelicals encouraged people to repent of their sins, so that when they knew themselves to have been forgiven, they could, by God's grace, live lives of increased holiness.  To this day, Methodists, and also Pentecostalists and bodies such as the Nazarenes and the Christian Fellowship look back to Wesley and call themselves Arminians.

In Ireland, country gentlemen also aspired to the High Church ideal, but the ideal (unfortunately for them) did not coincide with the reality.  The basic problem was that most tenant farmers did not belong to the Established Church.

I want to speak only of the Presbyterians.  We should not think that their meeting houses were just places to go to worship on a Sunday.  On the contrary, Presbyterians were a kind of alternative Established church - almost a state within a state. Presbyterian ministers were highly educated. They were elected by their own congregations, and they propagated views acceptable to the farmers and tradesmen who had chosen them; not to the local landowner.  Presbyterians even had their own courts.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, most Presbyterians were straightforwardly Calvinists.  By making an extreme distinction between the sheep and the goats, Calvinism was ideally suited to fiercely independent congregations.  Outsiders could readily be dubbed heretical. When this exclusivity was combined with a Presbyterian form of church Government which gave small congregations strength in numbers, they were quite formidable.

Government in Scotland and Ulster, had several stabs at weakening the independence of Presbyterian congregations.  In Ulster, one of these was the Regium Donum, an annual bribe by the monarch to pay the stipends of Presbyterian ministers.  This generosity so incensed a few fervently Calvinistic (so called Covenanter) congregations in Ulster that they split off, eventually becoming the Reformed Presbyterian Church that exists to this day.  They took and still take the view that only the theologically correct ought to rule.  Even today, they will have little to do with the civil authorities, and, for example, do not vote in general elections.

A specifically Scottish issue found an echo in Ulster: the question of patronage.  In 1731, the Scottish Assembly effectively stopped members of the congregations choosing their own ministers, giving this privilege to local landed patrons, many of whom were Episcopalians.  The Rev Ebenezer Erskine denounced patronage.  He said it robbed every man of a "Divine right, given him by Christ, to choose his own minister .... What difference," he said, "does a piece of land make between man and man in the affairs of Christ's Kingdom .... {If} God hath chosen the poor of this world, {to be} ... heirs of the kingdom, ... I wish to know by what warrant they are stripped of the privileges of the kingdom".

Erskine and his friends seceded from the Church of Scotland. The Seceders themselves soon split over another issue, the so-called burgher oath, where again the state was interfering in matters of conscience.  Both the Burghers and the AntiBurghers were strictly Calvinist, but the Anti-Burghers took an extreme position similar to that of the Covenanters.

Ulster followed the Scots in creation of Burgher and Anti-Burgher Secession churches.  The immediate issues were different, but the broad principle of the disagreement was similar to those in Scotland.  In Ulster, the Calvinists left because the congregation's right to choose ministers was being weighted in favour of the wealthier members of the congregation. Even the poorest, they thought, had the divine right to choose his own minister.

My general point, therefore, is that eighteenth century Calvinism, particularly in its more extreme forms, represented a strong emphasis on the rights of even the poorest members, and quite a radical rejection of the legal and religious Establishment.

In mainstream Presbyterianism, however, Calvinism gave way to another voice, called by its critics the "New Light". New Light theology was firmly connected to the desire for Toleration.  These new Presbyterians still wanted to maintain their own separate institutions, but they were more accommodating.  They wanted only a measure of freedom from the interference of magistrate, landlord or crown.

And in much the same way as they wanted toleration from Crown, landlord and Establishment, so too did they want toleration within their own church. Individuals, they said, should be free to think out their own theological ideas.

The expression "New Light" was apposite.  They took the solar system as their key metaphor. Like planets shining in the light of the sun, they thought individuals ought to be free to act in the light of their own reason and conscience, which was the light of God.

I have made explicit here the parallel with the solar system.  And, indeed, much eighteenth century thought chose the Newtonian system as its model.  Newton's view was that the sun and the planets were part of a system.  They were all locked together, by virtue of their opposing tendencies. The centrifugal forces which moved the planets checked the centripetal force of the sun.  Everything was held together by checks and balances.

This metaphor was extraordinarily potent in both politics and religion.  It provided an ideal statement of the Revolutionary settlement as this came to be interpreted by the Whigs in the British Parliament.  The Whigs asserted that the different interests in society, as represented in Parliament, should work together with the king, but not be dominated by him.  It was a moderately libertarian view opposed to the absolutism represented by the Tory interest.

And later in the eighteenth century, this same Newtonian model also provided a model for the new constitution of the United States of America, a system in which natural laws held the centre and the periphery together by checks and balances.

The same model also provided a pretty good description of the Presbyterian form of church government.  Minister and congregation were checked by each other at a local level; and the minister was also controlled, with a measure of independence, by the presbytery and the synod.  There was control but there was freedom.

When the New Light movement first came into existence, they were confronted at first with much opposition from the Old Light of Calvinism.  And in fact, in 1726, many New Light Presbyterians were forced to leave their Church. In their new church, the Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church, ministers were not to be compelled to subscribe to any creed (and especially not to the Calvinist Westminster Confession).

The New Light movement was latitudinarian.  It favoured individual reason and conscience.

It also tended to underplay the significance of Christ and the Atonement.  Calvinism, in contrast, was all about the Atonement, and the idea that only a few were to be saved.  The New Light saw Jesus as a rational moral teacher.  And it assumed that if you were good and contrite for your sins, then the love of God would get you into heaven.  The idea of an atoning sacrifice was rather foreign to this new rational spirit.

Apart from this, in a theology which was structured by the metaphor of the Newtonian solar system, with God at the centre, the idea that One God might somehow be Three seemed very peculiar.  Consequently, many in the New Light tended towards Unitarianism.  They became Arians.

Later in the eighteenth century, the Presbyterians became more assertive.  So when in the 1790s, a branch of the English Whig party found itself supporting the French Revolution, it was not at all surprising to find a substantial wing of the Ulster Presbyterians doing the same.  A revolution against landlords in France in the name of reason inevitably struck a chord with rationalist farmers who didn't like landlords in Ireland.

The brief alliance which was struck with Catholics in the late eighteenth century was not to last.  The radical Presbyterianism of the 1798 Rebellion was easily crushed, and once more Presbyterians fell to accommodating themselves to the status quo.

All this changed with the rise of Daniel O'Connell in the 1820s and the demand for Catholic emancipation.  With this there arose a specifically Catholic radicalism from which the Presbyterians were excluded and which appeared to them as a threat.

The gentlemen in the Church of Ireland swung around more emphatically towards Arminian evangelicalism in a desperate attempt to convert their Catholic tenants to Protestantism, and they sought support in this enterprise from the Presbyterians.  The hope was to detach their Catholic tenants from their priests, not just to save their tenants' souls but also to establish some discipline on their estates.  By and large, the Catholic tenantry would have nothing of this, however.  Realising the power they now wielded, they clung loyally to an increasingly Catholic Catholicism, with absolutely no intention of being wooed to the Church of Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterians found themselves squeezed between the two Episcopalian parties.  On the one side, they wanted to differentiate themselves from the Catholics.  On the other, they also did not want to be overtaken by the established Church.  So they turned to an old standby, Calvinism.

The great merit of Calvinism is that it makes a strict discrimination between the sheep and the goats.  On one side of a line is the body of the elect; on the other side is the non-elect.  By turning once more to Calvinism, Presbyterians were able to turn their faces against two enemies at once, the Catholics who were now their ethnic rivals and the Episcopalians, who were still their class enemies.

With the rise of a specifically Catholic radicalism from which they were excluded, and especially after the reforms of the late 1820s and early 1830s, the Presbyterians had much less time for old fashioned Whiggish toleration.  They wanted to emphasise their own separate, non-Catholic, non-Episcopalian identity.  Calvinism was tailor-made for such boundary-definition and boundary maintenance.  There was, therefore, a sudden rise in Calvinistic radicalism led by the redoubtable Henry Cooke.  In a re-run of a conflict almost exactly 100 years previously, the libertarian New Lighters were expelled and they went to join the Non-Subscribers.

With Calvinist orthodoxy re-established, the old Calvinist Seceders came back into the mainstream Presbyterian fold in 1840.

When, rather more than a decade later, Revival broke out in the United States of America, a number of Irish Presbyterians took an interest and went to America to investigate.  Peter Brooke writes that the General Assembly prayed for a revival at its annual meeting.  When signs of revival began in Kells in County Antrim, in 1859, there were already many Presbyterians ready to take a leadership role.

The Fifty Nine, as is well-known, began in a small way but it spread like an inferno across Ulster.  Here is one story told at a public meeting in 1859 at Broughshane, Co Antrim.

'Gentlemen', {said the man} and he trembled as he spoke - 'gentlemen, I appear before you this day as a vile sinner.  Many of you know me; you have but to look at me, and recognise the profligate of Broughshane.  You know I was an old man, hardened in sin; you know I was a servant of the devil, and he led me by that instrument of his, the spirit of the barley. ... in short, I defy the townland of Broughshane to produce my equal in profilagacy or any sin whatever.  But, ah gentlemen, I have seen Jesus; I was born again only last night week; I am therefore, a week old today.  My heavy and enormous sin is all gone; the Lord Jesus took it all away; and I stand before you this day ... a monument of the perfect grace of God!  quoted in Gibson pp34-5.

I do not wish to talk of the progress of this remarkable religious revival, except to say that it took Protestant Ulster by storm; and particularly it took Presbyterian Ulster by storm. There briefly grew up a whole class of revival preachers who achieved fame and fortune by placing themselves at the head of this remarkable movement.  The writer of the standard account of the movement, William Gibson, was also the Presbyterian minister who led the delegation from the general assembly to America to find out about it.  And he quickly became the moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly.

From the very beginning, however, the Revival ran into criticism.  The criticism was primarily in the form of published pamphlets and it is with this criticism that I want to be concerned.

The criticism came from all quarters.  One of the earliest critics, for example, was a Non Subscribing Presbyterian, Rev John Montgomery (1859) who prefaced his remarks with a swipe at the Trinity.  Another was Thomas MacNeece, a leading Anglican.

All of these critics (and there were very many) had much in common.  in particular they all disapproved of what they saw as the Revival's "excesses".  They disapproved in particular of the physical manifestations, the prostrations, the temporary blindnesses, the physical debilities which were a significant feature of the Revival.  Many of them too, no doubt defending a professional interest, objected to the rise of self-appointed preachers.

Virtually all the critics of the revival attacked these physical manifestations, partly because they were just unseemly, partly because they were "superstitious" (a coded term which implied they were Catholic) and partly because they were unbiblical: nobody got saved in the Bible, it was said, by being incapacitated.  There was more to the criticisms, however, that this.

One of the things that characterised the new revival was its interdenominational spirit.  Soon after the revival began, an Evangelical Alliance of clergy from all denominations became involved in directing it.  It was the inter-denominationalism that attracted considerable ire.  And to Presbyterian critics, the movement was also at fault because it was not Calvinistic, a point which, for example, both Peter Brooke and Finley Holmes 1985 seem to have missed).

The main thrust of this Calvinist opposition came from Rev Isaac Nelson of the Presbyterian Church in Donegall Street. His first pamphlet began with a blast against the Unitarianism of John Montgomery with a very well argued defence of the Trinity. By so doing, Nelson summarised what had been the central controversy in Presbyterianism since the 1720s: the conflict between Arianism and Calvinism.

He therefore showed himself an articulate defender of what he naively took to be still the mainstream Calvinist view.  This done, he restated the impeccably orthodox view that the work of the Holy Spirit is to act on the individual so that the individual does not know what is happening to him.  "No man is saved, but by the working of the Holy Spirit; and yet no man is saved without working with all his faculties, as if salvation were entirely by human effort"

Nelson suggests that conversion does not happen all at once, but that the Holy Spirit acts upon the individual over a long period effecting a continuous conversion.  Thus, when he criticises the bodily manifestations, he does so from an elegant and essentially Calvinistic theological perspective.

Once the Revival had died down, the Calvinist opposition to it once more resumed when a Rev William Dobbin published a pamphlet in 1864.

Dobbin took what may seem a small issue but he tugged at it like a loose piece of wool.  He asked whether the idea that a person could feel assured of salvation was compatible with Calvinist doctrines.  It was quite commonplace during the Revival for individuals, like the man from Broughshane, to stand up and declare that they knew that their sins had been forgiven: that they were sure they were saved.  Such a declaration, said Dobbin, wasn't Calvinism.

He asked, "Is it competent to any man, especially any Calvinist, to assert that he knows, with undoubting and infallible certainty, that he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and that his sins are forgiven?  The question so stated, I unhesitatingly answer in the negative.'  (Dobbin, 1864)

Dobbin was much more explicit than Nelson.  He argued much the same case as Nelson but he quoted as theological authorities not only Calvin himself but also the Westminster Confession and the larger Catechism, and these turned out to be pretty unequivocal.  He therefore gave his opponents nowhere to hide.  A man first acquires faith in God, he argued, because of the action of the Holy Spirit, and he may only later gain a halting assurance of his salvation, if then.

"According to the Westminster standards" he said, "the existence of regeneration does not imply the certain knowledge of it."  And then, the crunch line: By adopting revivalist theology, said Dobbin, the Church exposed herself to "the sneer of having a Calvinist creed and an Arminian clergy." p9 '

In short, he says, "the General Assembly has been of late years insensibly drifting into Methodism".

In fact, Dobbin and Nelson took their complaint to the General Assembly but the Assembly side-stepped the issue.  Nobody said so, of course, but it was clear that, for many people, if the Revival was contrary to Calvin, the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession then so much the worse for Calvin, the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession.

One important reason for this was undoubtedly, as Peter Brooke points out that there was a new spirit about.  People were increasingly seeing themselves not so much as Presbyterian, but as Protestants.  And a major focus for this, in the churches, was an inherently Arminian pan-Protestant, and anti-Catholic evangelicalism.  And another reason, which probably explains much of the enthusiasm in the churches for the Revival was the widespread desire in all Protestant churches to attract new members.  In this context, for some ministers at least, Calvin was yesterday's ideology.

Once upon a time, the idea of sudden conversion, including assurance of faith, was part of the Arminian tradition found only among Anglican Evangelicals and the Methodists.  Now, while formally remaining Calvinists, the Presbyterian clergy embraced Arminianism and ignored those Calvinist doctrines which did not seem to fit.  Dobbin's complaint seemed to contain much truth: they had, indeed, a Calvinist creed and an Arminian clergy.

What is surprising about Peter Brooke's book is that he leaves the matter there, arguing that from now on the Protestant identity was intact, having replaced an earlier one divided between the Church of Ireland, the Methodists and the Presbyterians.

In fact, a self-conscious Calvinism persisted in the Presbyterian Church, not just as a formal doctrine, but as a means of asserting symbolic independence against both Catholicism and Episcopalianism.

One major subject that Peter Brooke wholly neglects to mention is the long and steadfast resistance in the Presbyterian Church to the introduction of hymn singing and instrumental music.  Hymn singing in Presbyterianism began with the Fifty Nine Revival.  Formal opposition to it began straight after the failure of the campaign on assurance.  It continued right up until the first World War (R S Tosh 1990).

This issue went to the heart of the matter.  Since at least 1840, there had been no hymns and no instrumental music in Presbyterian churches: only unaccompanied singing of psalms and paraphrases of scripture.

The point was not trivial.  Presbyterians meet in meeting houses, the term meeting house being intended as a direct translation of the Hebrew word which we know as "synagogue".  In the Bible, there are many references to instrumental music.  This music, however, was found only in the temple.  It was not found in the synagogue.  To introduce an organ into the meeting house, therefore, was to travel down the path already trodden by the Church of Ireland and by the Methodists.  It was to turn the meeting house into a Temple, similar to the churches of the Catholics, a place where sacrifices could be made.

This conflict proved to be long and bitter, and it was over an issue that divided the Presbyterians not only from the Catholics but also from the Anglicans and the Methodists.  For Arminians, seeking to make their church attractive to non-Christians, happy songs and instrumental music was essential.  To Calvinists whose church was composed of the elect, such fripperies were at best unnecessary, at worst heresy.  The conflict continued until the first world war.

For example in The Ulster Guardian on Saturday June 23 1917, one can read.

"It is reported from Castlecaulfield, Co Tyrone that last Sunday a number of farmers took from the local Presbyterian Church a recently installed portable organ and demolished it with a hammer.  This was their protest against the introduction of instrumental music to the church."

Even today, the Covananters, the Reformed Presbyterians, refrain from having instrumental music.  And I managed even to find a mainstream Presbyterian church which still resists.

This church was once a Seceder congregation of the more extreme Anti-Burgher Party.  When the Secession ended in 1840, this group remained outside the mainstream Presbyterians, clinging to the Secession.  When in 1917, it decided to join the mainstream Presbyterian Church, it did so only on condition that it could stick to the old ways, and even then a group broke away and affiliated themselves to the Covenanters.  This congregation still sings psalms unaccompanied, and it celebrates communion around tables put up in the aisles.

When I talked to their friendly minister, his remarks reminded me of the disputes of the 1860s.  I remarked that his church seemed very conservative.

He smiled and said that they were indeed conservative.

"You'd all be very evangelical then," I said with a feigned innocence.

He gave me a knowing look.

"Evangelical?", he said with a similarly feigned innocence.  "That's Methodism isn't it?"

The continuing Calvinist mistrust of Arminian forms of Presbyterianism was founded in the continuing mistrust between tenant and landlord.  And, indeed, an echo of the hostility between farmer and gentleman can still be found in fieldwork to this day.

The gentry continued to lead the Unionist party until the party itself split into pieces at the outbreak of the present troubles.  It is not at all surprising that Ian Paisley, the man who finally overthrew that state of affairs was a man who had first of all led a secession from the Presbyterian church with a consciously Calvinist theology based on the Westminster Confession opposed to what he sees as the creeping latitudinarianism of that church.

Even for Paisley, however, the ground has shifted.  Paisley, like many conservative Presbyterians today, does not see any opposition between Calvinism and Revivalism.  And, indeed, he has written an account of the Fifty Nine which extols its virtues.

Now, with the exception of a few eccentrics like the Reformed Presbyterians and my conservative minister and his congregation, Calvinists no longer oppose themselves to the Fifty Nine Revival.  What is now called Calvinist orthodoxy now comfortably embraces the revivalist doctrines of Arminianism, in a way that it could not do before 1859.  Despite this, even in its most conservative, Covenanting form, Calvinism is still alive.  It is, therefore, still available if anybody needs to make use of it.



ARMINIANISM Doctrine of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) who opposed the theory of predestination.  He insisted that Christ died for all men, not just for the elect, and that men could choose to seek God.  The Anglican Archbishop Laud was accused of Arminianism in the early 17th century.  Arminianism became effectively the creed of the "High and Dry" Anglicans in the eighteenth century and beyond, and of the Methodists and Anglican Evangelicals.

ARYANISM A Unitarian doctrine which questions the divinity of Christ.  Many who were accused of Arianism thought Christ and the Holy Spirit were manifestations of the one God.  This view, though heretical to most churches, is not really Arian.

CALVINISM Doctrine of John Calvin who taught that, in the beginning, God chose (elected) some people to be saved, and others to be damned.  For Calvin, man can do nothing to change his fate.  All human works (even "good" ones) are sins.  Calvin taught that the Holy Spirit can lead the elect to have faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and that a person can therefore come to be convinced that he is saved.  Calvin also taught that the state should be subject to the church, not the other way around.

COVENANTERS Those groups of Presbyterians who bound themselves by political oaths to maintain their religion.  In Ulster, the term refers to members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church which upholds the Calvinist doctrine that the state should be subordinate to the church.

EVANGELICALISM This term has been used since the reformation to refer to all those Protestant churches which claim to base their teaching exclusively on the Bible.  In the Anglican Communion it was used to refer to the school which emphasised personal conversion and salvation by faith in the atoning death of Christ.  It had much in common with the Methodism of John Wesley.  Now in Ulster it refers to similar beliefs held in all Protestant churches, which however stop short of fundamentalism.

FUNDAMENTALISM A movement in the early twentieth century to counteract modernising trends in the churches.  It set out five "fundamental" beliefs: the inerrancy of scripture: the divinity of Jesus Christ; the virgin birth; a substitutionary theory of the Atonement; and the physical resurrection and bodily return of Christ.

HIGH CHURCHMANSHIP A body of Anglican thought especially in the Church of England emphasising the importance and historical continuity of the Church.  In the eighteenth century, it had a Tory emphasis on the prerogatives of the monarchy and was tainted with Jacobitism.  Its critics called it "High and Dry" because of its emphasis on good order and morality.  Wesley and the Evangelicals came from this party in the Church of England. From the 1830s, the term "High Church" came to refer to followers of the Anglo-Catholic "Tractarians".

NEW LIGHT A party within the Presbyterians Church demanding that each individual should be allowed to follow the light of his own reason and conscience.  Its members were accused of Unitarianism or Aryanism, and a secession in 1728 led to the formation of the Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

SECESSION CHURCHES: BURGERS AND ANTI-BURGERS.  A Secession in the Church of Scotland took place to resist the power of landed "patrons" in the choice of minister.  The Seceders further split over whether would-be burgesses should swear that they "professed the true religion" of the Church of Scotland.  The Anti-Burgher Church declined to take the oath.  Divisions in Ulster Presbyterianism allied themselves to these different churches.

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH Formulated in 1646, the Westminster Confession came to be widely accepted as a definitive statement of Calvinist orthodoxy.  Presbyterian ministers are required to subscribe their names to a copy of this document.